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Zach Mercer shortlisted for Top 14 prize alongside England competitor

By Josh Raisey
Montpellier's French flanker Zach Mercer celebrates after scoring a try during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Montpellier and Harlequins (Photo by SYLVAIN THOMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Incoming Gloucester No.8 Zach Mercer has been shortlisted as one of the five candidates for Top 14 No.8 of the season alongside Saracens-bound England competitor Tom Willis.

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Mercer remains the reigning Top 14 player of the year after guiding Montpellier to the league title in the 2021/22 season. While he will soon lose that title when a new player is crowned, he is still in contention to make the team of the season.

The 26-year-old faces stiff competition from Toulouse’s title-winning No.8 Alexandre Roumat, Top 14 runner-up and Heineken Champions Cup winning captain Gregory Alldritt, Perpignan’s Genesis Mamea Lemalu and compatriot Willis, who departed Bordeaux-Begles at the end of the season to also return to the Gallagher Premiership.

The two-cap England No.8 was one of the surprise omissions from Steve Borthwick’s recent 41-man England World Cup training squad, while the uncapped Willis was one of the surprise inclusions. This shortlist perhaps sheds some light on the invidious position that Borthwick found himself in selecting his No.8s, not to mention the likes of Alex Dombrandt and Billy Vunipola also providing options from the Premiership.

Willis’ inclusion is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he only joined Bordeaux at the end of 2022 after Wasps went into administration, which outline his credentials to make the final World Cup squad.

Borthwick has been emphatic since announcing his squad that those who missed out should remain ready to be called up at any point.

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“Every one of them, I have said ‘you need to be ready for an opportunity to come in’ and one thing that is consistent in every World Cup, every one of those preparation periods there is something that happens and somebody from outside the squad comes in,” he said after naming his squad.

“So the message to every player is ‘Be ready. Be ready if your opportunity comes to be ready to take it.”

 

 

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2 Comments
I
Ian 340 days ago

Mercer being jettisoned from the national squad was a huge surprise but to compensate Borthwick is impressed by Tom Willis as England fans soon will be. He's a big, mobile and battle hardened. A great 8. Wish he could play 12!

P
Poorfour 343 days ago

So the news is basically that Mercer is in the top third of starting Top 14 No 8s? That's a compelling case for selection.

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